The Apollo Hospitals Group has announced plans to set up about 5,000 isolation rooms in major cities to quarantine Covid-19 positive cases, start fever clinics and establish more collection points to fight the epidemic under its Project Kavach initiative. The industry has sought government support for private sector hospitals to survive while working with it on Covid-19.
The country's largest hospital chain has said that it has already opened four testing labs for Covid-19 testing, and will ramp it up to 17 labs soon. The complete infrastructure is expected to be in place by March end and full-scale testing, which includes home collection of samples and drive through testing, will start around the same time. In-hospital testing will be discouraged. Dedicated fever clinics are being set up to screen people.
Once it starts screening and identifying positive cases, considering that many Indian homes have 6-7 people who share common accommodation and toilet, Apollo will launch Project Stay I. This is a strategy to create medical rooms in hotels or hostels with light medical supervision for quarantine and creating a barrier before they come into the hospitals. It is expecting almost 80 per cent of the cases might get cured here, while the rest will be moved to the main hospitals for further treatment.
"These medical rooms will be rolled out in the following cities – Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Delhi, starting with about 50 in each city, going up by 50 rooms every three days, to reach an eventual target of 5,000 rooms across the country," said Sangita Reddy, joint managing director, Apollo Hospitals Group. Plans are to start with 100-200 beds on Saturday in a tie-up with the government and ramp it up every few days. Apollo is looking at CSR funding partners for this.
"With “Project Stay-I” we expect to help over 10,000-15,000 patients in a month and prevent over 5 million infections," she added. The company will share the protocol, methodology and platform so that other companies can join. It has dedicated 250 beds in its various hospitals already for isolation of Covid patients and will ramp it up to 500, if required.
It has around 1,000 ventillators across the country most of which are under use now. However, on a calculation based on the global data, it expects the available ventillators will be enough.
The Apollo pharmacies have seen the number of footfalls growing from the normal 450,000 around 700,000 two days back with panic buying. "However, there is no need of panic buying as there is adequate stocks available and the pharma companies have also assured they are producing more medicines to meet the situation," said Shobana Kameneni, executive vice chairperson. The company has specially designed an AI-based Coronavirus Risk Assessment Scan for screening and initial assessment, which is available in the form of an app.
Prathap C Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group said the lockdown will help significantly in flattening the curve, but at least 50,000 beds will still be needed at dedicated facilities across the country, because of the highly infectious nature of the virus. "We are already working in Bhubaneswar and Andhra Pradesh and have committed assistance in managing certain beds," he added.
Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson, said various organisations including the healthcare federation NATHEALTH are seeking support from the government for the survival of private healthcare firms in trying times. The industry is facing challenges since there is a dip in the volume of planned procedures.
"We need a stimulus on basic costs, like power, cost of ventillators and the cost of capital also. The industry will come together to make a bunch of request because on the one side we are so committed to treat patients, on the other side, unless this industry as private sector to survive, we might see a total crash in the system itself," she added.
Commenting on the cost of testing and treating Covid-19, she said that there is a cost for it and it is not cheap. The focus is to give high level and quality of care and those who can pay will be asked to pay. As far as testing is concerned, the prices has been fixed and there is no agreed margins on it. It is expecting some of the State governments and the Centre will come up with some support to make the tests and treatment viable by bearing certain part of the cost.